Conference explores calls for bold landscape action
Leading countryside experts united in the first virtual conference of its kind to explore two crucial proposals in the government’s far-reaching 25-year Environmental Plan.
The sellout event organised by the Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas (CNPPA), based at University of Cumbria’s Ambleside Campus, attracted a raft of key figures, organisations and speakers.
Hailed a ‘major success’, Landscapes for Everyone probed significant plans to connect people with places of outstanding natural beauty and make these areas work for vibrant communities.
The university’s Professor of Practice and conference organiser, Dr Julia Aglionby, explained a remote platform had allowed 140 delegates, including Defra, Natural England, national park representatives and academics, to take part.
She explained: “Tuesday (October 13) will be remembered and Twitter feedback is tremendous, with one post extolling ‘the best event since lockdown’.
“Thirty speakers, from a 15-year-old volunteer from the Chilterns, to Julian Glover, the lead author of Defra’s National Landscapes Review, helped draw some important conclusions.
“It was agreed those involved in our precious national landscapes need to work together much more closely to be a countrywide co-ordinated voice, in the way arts and culture bodies have responded to Covid.
“Critical to the debate was why people from areas of deprivation, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and those with disabilities often failed to access some of England’s best countryside and how barriers could be broken down.”
Communities living and working in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty also came under the microscope.
Dr Aglionby said income opportunities and quality of life were key factors and there was agreement local people should be represented on the bodies who managed the places where they lived.
She added: “Julian Glover has called for bold action to reignite the founding spirit of our great national park movement and to do more for nature, more for communities and make more open to everyone.
“Our conference and the lively interactive panel event we staged on Monday night, with nationally acclaimed adventurer Simon Yates, certainly went a long way in firing people’s passion and commitment.”
Conference delegates included Sion McGeever, Defra lead overseeing the response to the Glover Review, Tony Gates, CEO Northumberland National Park and James Stuart, chair of National Parks UK.
Advocates for BAME communities were Doctor Anjana Khatwa and Yvonne Witter. Academics Professor Lois Mansfield, University of Cumbria, and Mark Shucksmith, University of Newcastle also attended.